Before she went out, she called the school and asked them to ask Cindy about getting her homework. Mrs. Grieves in the office sounded weird.
The whole town was weird.
The single main strip looked like something out of a movie. Old east-coast brick buildings, nothing more than two stories on either side of two lanes that basically cut the town in half. As the town had grown street were built out into the hills, forming the neighborhoods and school and on up to the hospital on the hill.
Mr. Stevens, who owned the drugstore, had started growing a mustache. It looked like stubble on his lip. When Miranda asked what his wife thought of it, he looked at her like she was an alien. She added facial hair to her list of possible social taboo topics. He didn’t look as offended as when Mrs. Emmons in the library had when Miranda had talked about how pigs were easier to impregnate if they had orgasms first. Dad had been surprisingly calm when Mrs. Emmons called.
It wasn’t like people weren’t nice. Miranda quite liked Mr. Stevens’s store. He always told boring stories and zoning out during them gave her a sort of peaceful feeling sort of like doing Dad’s meditation practice.
Virgina trees were lush and dense, and they defined the edges of town like it was an island in a sea of green. There were little cuts where the highway went off in four directions. It’d been so long since they’d left town. Dad didn’t really take vacations. The trees surrounding town were starting to really feel like walls.
Why’d she have to feel like this now? Cindy might be her first friend. She’d made plans even. College, job, a future. Maybe she’d go to veterinary school, maybe she’d get her degree and set up a practice, something just outside of town, out in the woods. She’d make a difference too. Local farmers currently had to go all the way out to Jetersville to get vet service.
It wasn’t fair. This was the first town that felt like her town, her home. She didn’t love her house, but it was there and she liked it for that.
She wasn’t sure it was exactly the life that she was looking for, but it was a potential life. Maybe she could even change her mind along the way and do something different, but that didn’t seem likely, she liked to know what the future had in store for her, she liked to have a plan.
The town had a Radio Shack, the kind with an old black and white sign that read “The Radio Shack Corp.” The guys behind the counter knew her pretty well and she generally liked most of them, except Randell, the kid who’d flunked out of her her high school who always stared at her.
“I need piezo buzzers.” Randell was already smiling at her when she came in. He put down a copy of Amateur Electronics magazine. It was better to just get to the point right away.
He said, “Are you actually buzzing or making surface mics?”
“Why do you want to know?” She didn’t mean to sound as sharp as she did.
He held up his hands. “Whoa. It’s just that the smaller piezo’s are harder to break out of their enclosure. It’s harder to make mics out of them.”
She felt guilty, but didn’t want to necessarily share her plans with Randell. “I might need both.”
He nodded, but looked sullen. “Well, you know where they are.” He gestured at the bins in the back corner of the store and went back to his magazine.
She’d need a mic for each room of the house. She was thinking she might be able to get some blue tooth transmitters. If she could sync them with the wireless router, maybe she could figure a way to make her computer record while she was gone. The smart thing would be to figure a way to make it only record when noise got above a certain threshold.
Her revelry was interrupted by Cindy’s voice behind her. “Miranda!”
She jumped. She didn’t like being surprised. “Oh, hey Cindy.” She hadn’t heard the bell. “What are you doing out of school?”
Randell was looking at Cindy now. Miranda felt briefly angry. She wasn’t sure if it was because Randell had stopped paying attention to her or because he was paying too much attention to Cindy. Whatever.
Cindy picked up a little robotic dog. She brought her voice into a stage whisper. “I skipped out.” She was loud enough that Randell could probably hear her.
“You can’t do that!”
Cindy looked legitimately confused. “But I just did.”
Miranda had to stop and count to ten. “What are you doing here, Cindy?”
“I was looking for you.” She grinned. “This was one of the three most likely places I thought to look for you!”
Was she really that obvious? Miranda was afraid to ask what the other two places were.
Cindy said, “I just wanted to see if you’ve found out anything yet.” She looked excited.
“I just started.” Miranda set down the piezo. “And I have other stuff going on you know.”
Cindy’s face fell. “I’m sorry, do you want to talk about it?” She put her hand on Miranda’s shoulder.
Miranda looked over at Randell, but he’d gone back to his magazine again. “Maybe later.” Cindy’s hand felt good, but she had the impression that people didn’t touch each other in Aught. She felt a little embarrassed.
She leaned down to get another kind of piezo. Cindy’s hand fell away. “I need to go to city records. I’m going there next. Do your dads have a safe deposit box? Like at the bank?”
Cindy frowned, “I haven’t heard about anything like that.” She twisted her hair. “I asked where we came from. They seem as confused about it as I am.”
Miranda looked over at Randell. This actually made her think of an experiment. She grabbed twelve of the larger piezos and brought them to the register.
“Microphones, eh?” Randell smiled knowingly.
Miranda shrugged and bug out her wallet. “Hey Randell, have you met Cindy?”
Cindy smiled and waved.
Randell glanced at her. “Sure. Nice to meet ya.”
Now to test how people perceived things. “And have you met her dads?”
Randell looked for confused for a moment. “The Bauteils? Bill and Tom came in for an HDMI cable a few weeks back.”
Miranda looked at Cindy then back to Randell. “What do you think about Cindy having five dads?”
“Five? I thought there were three.”
“Isn’t that kind of weird?”
Randell put his hand on the register and looked down at his magazine. “Is what weird?”
“Isn’t it weird that anyone has three or four or five dads?”
Randell looked bored. “I don’t know. I guess.”
“With all those guys, don’t you think that qualifies as an alternative family?”
He perked up at the word alternative. “How so?”
Cindy slugged Miranda’s arm. “Stop it.”
“Yeah, why you picking on her family?” Randell waved his hand, like to dismiss Miranda.
“I just …” Miranda shut up. Clearly Randell was operating from a different set of assumptions than she was.
“I’ll take these, please.” She needed to get outside and take some notes.